Elkhart Smoking Ban Debate to Begin

The “City with a Heart,” is the latest to worry about your lungs.

Next week, the Elkhart City Council will hold a public hearing on a proposed ban on smoking in public places.

The hearing will take place on Tuesday, July 17th, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

The council’s Health and Public Safety Committee will then reconvene on Wednesday the 18th for a possible vote on the measure.

If Elkhart is the next Indiana community to go smoke free, it apparently won’t go quietly.

"I'm not saying smoking is good for you,” says Al Usenick, the owner of the Franklin Street Tavern; “but it’s a choice that I should have the right to make.”

While bars have typically been exempt from smoking bans in other local communities, that doesn’t mean that will be the case in Elkhart.

"Its always puzzled me why people think that patrons of bars should be exposed to second hand smoke when patrons of restaurants shouldn't,” said Richard Pedler of the Elkhart Clean Air Coalition.

“Second hand smoke is second hand smoke. It doesn't matter who you are it will kill you, indiscriminately.”

On the other hand, there are some indications that Elkhart’s lack of a smoking ban has been good for the health of the economy.

"We had businesses that said they really noticed an up tick when St. Joseph County passed their ordinance,” said Kyle Hannon with the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce. “There were some up by the toll road that said yeah, that benefited them greatly."

The chamber doesn’t oppose the idea of a smoking ban, although it does object to the idea of bans being passed on a city by city basis.

“Our chamber has taken a position that if there is a smoking ordinance it needs to be county-wide or state-wide,” said Hannon.

The Elkhart Clean Air Coalition not only shares that concern, it hopes the passage of an Elkhart City ban would lead to consideration of a county-wide ban.

"Our coalition approached the county first,” said Pedler. “We approached them back in January."

Pedler said he was told that the county would only be interested if the cities were interested.

"And so I think the message is, the cities are interested,” Pedler concluded.

A final vote on the proposed Elkhart city smoking ban could come sometime in August.

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